An interactive art installation which creates "artworks" from a series of algorithms that the viewer sets.

by Felix Bade

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Soluautomaatti ("cellular automator" roughly translated from Finnish), is an interactive art installation in which mathematical algorithms are translated into organized pixel movements. The viewer has access to a series of physical levers and buttons which determine the nature of the algorithms and ultimately the movements of pixels on the screen which can result in striking works of art that range from geometric to organic.


Why did you do this, man?

"To me, mathematics is the study of patterns, and it is often the case that beautiful things are made of patterns and repetition. Although many mathematicians already see beauty in maths in itself, for me it is often easier to see this beauty through a visual medium."

"Often, the point of visualizing maths is to understand the underlying rules or concepts, but with Soluautomaatti I hoped to visualize maths in an unusual way. I wanted to try, how far can I stretch the definition of patterns"

"Playing with mathematics is often thought of as an activity for mathematically gifted minds, or people who have studied it at lengths. With Soluautomaatti, I hope math-play can be brought more accessible to everyone"


How it works

Each pixel is given the same algorithm. It decides to change its state as "on" or "off" depending on the state of each of the nine pixels surrounding it. Some consider this one form of how livings things survive and reproduce in communities. In fact, this project started when I came across Conway's game of life. Once I decided I wanted to learn to program it, I began reading Wolfram's A New Kind of Science in which thousands of different "cellular automators" were explored and understood.


"What surprises me the most is how such complicated and organic-looking movements and images can form from such simple rules set by anyone, and how the smallest changes in the rules can cause huge differences in the outcome of the artwork. Sometimes I like to draw parallels to DNA as even one change in base can have a life changing effect on someone"


The Physical Interface

Today, many user interfaces are built into different apps behind computer screens. This may not always be intuitive as things hidden behind layers may not seem "real". This is why for Soluautomaatti, all of the settings are displayed on one physical control board to the user, with physical and extremely satisfying tactile toggles and buttons.

"People have said Soluautomaatti was fun to use... I've never heard someone say the menu behind some screen was fun to use"


Art or not Art?

It is difficult to answer that question about anything, but it is true especially in this case. One could say that behind an artwork must be a human, in which case would I be the artist of all of these images? Even ones I didn't predict? Can these images even be considered art even if most of the work was done by a non-human? And if it could, would nature be considered art then, since it runs by "algorithms" which we know better as the "Laws of Physics".


More things to procrastinate on

Online interactive demos of Soluautomaatti:

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Videos from elsewhere on the internet: